QMMF President Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah is flanked by Youthstream President Giuseppe Luongo (left), and FIM/CMS Director Dr Wolfgang Srb, at a press conference at Losail International Circuit yesterday.PICTURES: SHAIVAL DALAL
DOHA: The 2013 MX1 FIM Motocross World Championship commences today with a bit of history in the making - the first ever night race which will be held tomorrow at the newly-built Losail MX Track.
Many expectations have been generated around this event, not only because it will be the first race of the 2013 season, but also because it will be the first ever MXGP in the Middle East and the maiden motocross race to be held under floodlights and with the new Super Final format.
Losail MX Track, the country’s only motocross track, is now set to host a round of the world championship for the first time.
However, the facilities of Losail are well known worldwide since the same venue stages the opening round of the MotoGP calendar every season.
The cooperation between Youthstream and QMMF has been outstanding and together with Musco Lighting System, the same company that illuminates Losail International Circuit for MotoGP, they will write their names in the history of the sport for having celebrated the first ever Grand Prix under lights.
“We have worked tirelessly to create this set-up,” Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah, President of QMMF, said.
“Within three months we got soil, lights, stands, rollers to reach this stage. Initially we thought it would be easy but soon we realised that we have a massive challenge in front of us,” Al Attiyah said with a smile on his face. “But my team made everything possible and we took care of this challenge.
“We were the first country to stage a night race in MotoGP and now we are going to the first destination with a night race in motocross,” Al Attiyah, who is the FIM Vice President, added.
Another highlight of the weekend is the fact that Livia Lancelot, 2008 FIM Women’s Motocross World Champion, will be taking part in the MX2 class during the MXGP in Qatar.
Lancelot will become the second woman to take part in the FIM Motocross World Championship, after Mariana Balbi, who took part in the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2009.
MX1 defending Champion Antonio Cairoli recently said in an interview: “I am excited to race in Qatar under lights and I am also looking forward to visiting the country and getting involved with a different culture.”
The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider, who has six FIM motocross world titles under his belt, took part in the Italian National Championship a few weeks ago and proved that he is fully fit to defend the title at the opening race of the season.
Rockstar Energy Suzuki World’s Clement Desalle, who finished second last year, is determined to start the 2013 season fighting for the top spot on the podium.
The Belgian rider was the only one who led the MX1 standings last year apart from Cairoli.
He remains one of the clear favourites to stop the Italian from claiming another MX1 title.
Desalle also took part in some international off-season races and obtained excellent results.
This year Desalle will have his compatriot Kevin Strijbos in the team, so the Rockstar Energy Suzuki World squad expects to be fighting for a double podium position in several Grands Prix.
Another candidate to be fighting for the top three positions is the Monster Energy Yamaha rider Steven Frossard.
Frossard is coming back to the FIM Motocross World Championship after having missed almost the entire 2012 season due to a knee injury. The French rider finished second in 2011 in his rookie year in the FIM MX1 World Championship. He is another rider to be looked at not only for this Grand Prix, but also during the whole season.
Joel Roelants will be the new MX1 teammate of Frossard and the Belgian is looking forward to starting his rookie season in the FIM MX1 World Championship.
Meanwhile, the 2012 FIM MX2 World Champion Jeffrey Herlings has landed in Qatar fully motivated to race the first Grand Prix of the season and he will be keen to start the new season with the red plate on his KTM.
Besides, the Red Bull KTM Factory rider is also looking forward to racing against the MX1 rider in the Super Final although he knows it is going to be difficult for him to finish among the top three riders.
Most of Herlings’ 2012 rivals have moved up to the MX1 class, so there is a big question mark as to who will stop the Dutch rider from claiming his second MX2 World Tile.
However, his teammate Jordi Tixier has experienced significant improvements during the off-season, so he could be the one fighting for the MX2 World Championship against Herlings. Wilvo Nestaan JM Racing KTM’s Jake Nicholls had a very consistent season last year and he finished fourth in the FIM MX2 World Championship.
Another rider who could be fighting for an overall win in the MX2 class is the Monster Energy Yamaha rider, Christophe Charlier.
The French rider had a tough time in 2012 as he struggled with injuries, but he has regained peak health and seems more motivated than ever to be fighting for the first step of the podium. Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe team rider Max Anstie is another clear candidate to be among the top three.